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An Old Navy store fights homelessness

ValuesTanya Hart, Gap Inc. blogger1 Comment
IMG_5075 Adopt a Family_BLOG1.jpg

Each year for at least two decades, thousands of Gap Inc. employees have provided for the less fortunate through Adopt a Family.

Diane Shuman, an Atlantic City Old Navy general manager, took it a step further this year by sleeping outside in the freezing cold, with nothing but a cardboard box for shelter as part of the Covenant House Sleep Out event.

The idea was to sleep on the streets in 22-degree weather to bring attention to homeless teens, with the goal of raising money for their care. Around 60 people participated.

“I only had to do it one night and I was struggling,” Diane says. “The wind was blowing and I’m thinking, ‘How am I going to make it until 5 a.m.?’ I was talking out loud to myself at one point saying, ‘Look, I have to suck it up; there are people who go through this, at 13 and 14 years old, wandering the streets. This is their daily existence.”

Diane has been involved with the Covenant House for about five years, and this is the second year she’s slept outside (this year, she was joined by her training manager Alicia Chiles).

Diane loves being able to link the event to Adopt a Family – and that’s the idea, she says. To take an organization that already means so much to her personally, and figure out a way to connect it to her work life.

This year, many people from Gap Inc. donated to the kids – $3,500 in total. And that’s in addition to the Adopt a Family gifts to come – hats, gloves, socks.

“We can’t afford to buy them all outfits, so we figure we’ll do our best to keep them warm,” Diane said. “I walked across the street to the Gap and Banana Republic stores here, and they’re going to join us.”

Her store in Atlantic City also teaches these same homeless teens about job readiness throughout the year – that includes help with resumes and career counseling.

“We really have adopted this community,” she said of Covenant House. “We’re working hard on the skills-based, job-training part of this too, so we can help them transition out of there.

“Their stories – some of these kids have been trafficked by their parents, they’ve been sold, abandoned. They came outside during the sleep out, just so surprised that we would do this for them.

“And that breaks my heart.”